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Jerry Reinert
Reinert ’56 Relives Epic Life Episode

When the famed Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria departed Naples, Italy, on July 17, 1956, a young Rensselaer graduate was among the 1,706 passengers heading for New York City and an epic adventure of tragedy and heroism.

At 11:10 p.m. the night of July 25, in dense fog, the elegant Italian liner collided with the Swedish liner Stockholm 45 miles south of Nantucket Island. Eleven hours later, the Andrea Doria had sunk to the bottom of the North Atlantic.

A new book, Desperate Hours: The Epic Rescue of the Andrea Doria, by New York Times writer Richard Goldstein, published by John Wiley and Sons, presents a minute-by-minute account of the greatest peacetime sea rescue in history.

At the moment of impact, Jerry Reinert ’56, “a 21-year-old Brooklynite, returning home from a European tour—a gift from his widowed mother upon his graduation from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,” writes Goldstein, felt the boat rock and watched a bartender slam backward against the bar and collapse.

The ship immediately listed to 8 degrees and its plight became apparent. At least six ships heeded distress calls and headed to help. When the French ocean liner Ile de France appeared out of the fog and turned on all its lights, Reinert remembers being seized with “incredible joy.”

“It was almost as if the sky lit up,” he told Goldstein. “It meant, hey, we’re gonna live.”

In the tumult of the rescue efforts that followed, Reinert formed a team of four young men who carried children down a rope ladder to lifeboats for about three and a half hours. At 4 a.m. he fell into a lifeboat, exhausted, and was taken aboard the Ile.

The entire rescue of the ship’s passengers took three hours; nearly 1,700 were saved.

Among the many references to Reinert in the book is a photograph of him with the shirt he was wearing during the rescue, which he framed as a memento of that fateful night.

Reinert is the retired president of Reinert and Co. Inc., a stock brokerage company, and a member of the New York Stock Exchange. He has been honored with the RAA’s Albert Fox Demers Medal for his volunteer work on behalf of Rensselaer. He is currently president of the Class of ’56.

Rensselaer Magazine: March 2002
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